dive would cost over $600,000,
with major funding provided by
the World Jewish
55 years, Nazi Secrets Discovered in
Austrian lake: cont'd[Return
to Part 1]
added by this website]
The Search For
Camp Survivor Helps Solve Lake's Mystery
After 55 Years Under Water
TOPLITZ, Austria, Nov. 21, 2000
(CBS) If the wooden pieces
were the remains of the Nazi project, the
packing boxes had fallen apart and
whatever was inside them was clearly in
It seemed Hitler's secret could be lost
to history. But if the high technology was
being defeated by Toplitz, there was
something else that could bring a
conclusion to Hitler's Lake.
The memory of 83-year-old Adolf
left) is as sharp today as it was
during the Holocaust. He will never forget
the moment when, as a Jewish prisoner, he
was ordered to pack up the secret Nazi
project. "All the boxes were numbered at
that time... They were all numbered
according to a protocol," he recalled.
He never dreamed he would see them
Burger's eyes have seen a crime most of
the world knows nothing about. It is a
Holocaust story that he witnessed because
every step of the way.
"I survived five concentration camps
over a period of three years. We looked at
death on a daily basis. You were never
sure of your life," said Burger.
Early in 1942, Burger's life was a joy.
He was living in his native
Czechoslovakia, a printer by trade. And he
had just married Gisella, his
bride, whom he describes as "in love with
life and full of hope."
A few weeks after their marriage, the
Gestapo came to the print shop. He was
arrested the day before his 25th birthday.
"I'll never forget that as long as I live.
It was August 11, 1942."
newlyweds were prodded onto a livestock
train and shipped to Auschwitz.
"No one can imagine such a night," said
Burger. "Sixty people and 60 suitcases in
a livestock car. Then the train finally
stopped.... The doors were opened and they
shouted 'everyone out, everyone out.'"
On the platform at Auschwitz, the young
couple was separated. "She told me, 'Think
about me every night at eight o'clock, and
I will think about you,'" remembered
Burger. "'In this way, our thoughts will
He never saw her again.
Gisella Burger was murdered in
chambers. But the Nazis had
something else in mind for her husband.
His journey through the death camps was
just beginning, because the Nazis needed
him. Fifty-five years later, 60 Minutes II
brought him to the lake to help search for
proof of his amazing story.
Looking at the video image relayed from
the underwater vessel, Burger thought he
recognized the markings on the remains of
the boxes that were found.
The evidence was in The Phantom's
mechanical grasp. The crew brought up the
one plank that could confirm the discovery
of Nazi boxes.
It was at the surface, seeing daylight
for the first time in five decades -- and
then it slipped back into the water. Pilot
Jeff Kowalishen tried to catch the
evidence on the fly, but it vanished, just
as the Nazis intended.
Why the S.S. dropped the boxes in the
lake was still a mystery. But if it was to
get rid of them forever -- it was working.
Solving the mystery meant Oceaneering
would have to take a much bigger risk.
To get to the bottom of Toplitz and its
secrets, a man would have to go down.
Oceaneering called in the cavalry - a team
of deep-ocean divers and their one-man
submarine called a WASP.
The WASP can dive to 2,000 feet, and
the air inside is recycled. At least in
theory, a diver can breathe in there for
Ken Tyler made the first trip
down 200 feet into the debris field and
discovered paper that had been soaking in
water for 55 years. "It's very, very
fragile. It's falling to bits," said Tyler
while underwater in the one-man
Whatever it was, it was coming apart
like confetti. It wasn't clear how much,
if any, would make it to the surface. And
if it did make it, would Burger recognize
As the first bundle of paper came up,
it became clear what the diver had found.
The notes were inscribed with the words
"Bank of England." The boxes were full of
cash, perhaps millions of dollars in
counterfeit British pounds.
But the discovery was only one piece of
an incredible story. Burger knew the fake
notes because he printed them at the point
of a gun in a concentration camp. "These
are the ones I was printing. That's
unbelievable, 55 years later I see my own
product," said Burger.
Shortly after his wife was murdered,
Burger was ordered to the Auschwitz camp
commandant, expecting to be sent to his
"He stands up and says 'Mr. Burger, you
are leaving here tomorrow. We need skilled
workers like you in Berlin,'" recalled
He wasn't the only one. Dozens of
Jewish craftsmen were being picked out of
death camps and sent to work on a secret
project in Sauchsenhausen, a camp outside
of Berlin. Burger's trade had saved his
When Burger arrived at the camp, he
found himself with 140 other special
prisoners, all of whom were artists in
their fields. There were bookbinders,
engravers and printers. They were escorted
to two barracks that were sealed off from
the rest of the camp behind barbed wire.
The windows were painted over for absolute
Inside the two buildings, the men found
the very latest printing equipment, a
photo lab, everything they would need for
what would become the greatest
counterfeiting operation in history.
The project was part of a Nazi scheme
to print money on a vast scale (the
equivalent of $4.5 billion), most of it in
Rabbi Marvin Hier is among the
Holocaust scholars and an
Hitler's S.S. "This was a very
serious undertaking that could cripple the
Allies," said Hier.
It was Hitler's secret weapon. The idea
was to flood the world with bogus money to
undermine the Allied currencies and, at
the same time, help pay for the war. The
closely guarded secret was supervised by
Himmler, head of Hitler's S.S.
would imagine in 1943: They're defeated in
Stalingrad. They're beginning to lose
battles, the invincible Third Reich," said
Hier. He speculates that "Himmler would
inform the Fuhrer...'Hey, not to worry, my
Fuhrer. We've got a plan, and it'll be
very soon now that we're gonna
bankrupt...all these Western
After perfecting the British pound, the
prison print shop copied the American $100
bill. By war's end, they were prepared to
print $1 million a day.
According to Burger, "the first 200
bills were finished on Feb. 22, 1945. We
were supposed to start printing the first
million dollars the next day. But on that
day, Feb. 23, there was an order from the
Reich Security's main office to stop work
and dismantle the machinery. The Russians
are 300 kilometers from Berlin."
Before the dollars could roll off the
press, the print shop was on the run.
The end of the road for the Nazis and
the counterfeit prisoners came at Ebensee,
Austria, which was the very last
concentration camp to be liberated. When
Burger finally ran through the gate, a
free man, he wanted only one thing -- a
camera. He took pictures because he was
afraid no one would ever believe his story
of death camps and economic sabotage.
The evidence of this incredible scheme
was being brought back from 200 feet and
55 years. The WASP team made 15 dives and
logged 34 hours on the bottom of Lake
60 Minutes II put the deteriorating
notes into the hands of two world experts
on paper conservation, Bernard
Lebeau and Florence
Hereenschmidt of the French company
LP3. They initially doubted the notes
could be saved.
Four months later, outside Paris, their
work was unveiled. The pounds dried so
well they could be separated. Even the
fake watermarks could be seen. Hitler's
bills were perfect. It turns out the Nazis
used some of them to pay off spies and
finance commando operations. They were in
circulation from Europe to South America.
There were so many that, by the end of the
war, the Bank of England was forced to
recall all its currency and redesign the
"If they had this counterfeiting
operation fully organized in 1939 and
early 1940, the results of World War II
may have been quite different," said
Adolf Burger thinks the expedition to
the bottom of Lake Toplitz was important
to bring awareness to the atrocities
committed by the Nazis: "Millions of
people will see it again on TV, millions
of people will see what the Nazis did....
I know I've done a very small bit of work
in order for the young to learn the
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